Leadership Change: What Arizona Community Foundation’s New Leaders Bring to Yuma

Arizona is a large, diverse state, which is why it makes a lot of sense for the Arizona Community Foundation to operate through five regional offices in addition to its Phoenix headquarters. Each of these offices has its own dedicated staff. One of these regional affiliates is based in Yuma, and it just got a leadership overhaul that local nonprofits should know about.

Related: IP’s Profile of the Arizona Community Foundation

Shara Merten, who used to work as the director of operations at the Yuma Community Food Bank, will now step into the role of ACF Yuma’s regional senior philanthropic advisor. She joins another foundation newbie, Fernando Quiroz, who, in February, became the foundation’s regional philanthropic coordinator. Together, Merten and Quiroz make up the two-person staff and lead the Yuma branch of the community foundation.

Merten has a long, involved history with the city of Yuma, not just at the food bank, but also as the executive administrator of the Caballeros de Yuma and as a volunteer for the annual Heart of Yuma event.

“Coming from more of a fundraising background with the food bank and then going into more of a fund development position within the foundation—that to me is what excites me, that I can see a longer legacy with people’s philanthropic involvement,” she said.

Quiroz came to the foundation with a background in immigration and naturalization, previously working as the executive director of American Beginnings. He’s also been involved with local organizations like the Arizona Housing Development Corporation the Sunset Community Health Center, and the Arizona Interagency Farmworkers Coalition.

“I tell people one of the reasons ACF attracted me and why I chose this job is I see myself as a product of the community. I was that child, I was that kid that went to the Boys and Girls Club. I was that kid that got that free lunch at school. I was that kid that got a scholarship from individuals in this community that allowed me to pursue my dreams and go,” he said.

So it seems that both of these nonprofit professionals are in tune with the local needs of Yuma residents and have some interests both inside and outside of the community foundation’s grantmaking areas. Neither homelessness nor immigration causes are typically supported by the foundation, but that could change in the months and years ahead. Founded in 1993, the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma last reported $14 million in assets and has awarded more than $5.4 million in grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students. 

Related: Health First, Education Second: The Arizona Community Foundation Stays the Course

Thanks to a grantmaking partnership with the Sturges Charitable Trust, there are three grantmaking focus areas in Yuma: health, arts, culture & humanities, and youth development & recreation. There are a couple of veteran-focused initiatives on the table, and animal welfare grants have been awarded in the past, too. The Sturges Charitable Trust has also contributed to the foundation’s unrestricted fund for community grantmaking and established a field of interest fund for even more funding through a competitive grantmaking process. The trust doesn’t do direct grant funding and all requests must go through the community foundation.

Meanwhile, donors in Yuma are becoming more generous and giving ACF of Yuma more to work with. This year’s grantmaking budget is about $130,000, an increase from last year’s $91,600 of total giving. The current competitive grant deadline is August 17, and those awards will be announced in late October.

To learn more about competitive grantmaking in Yuma, check out the ACF Grants & Initiatives page and the guidelines document. Other ACF regional offices are located in Cochise, Flagstaff, Gila Valley, Sedona, and Yavapai County.